Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I Love You. A Little.

Those words were spoken last weekend to a friend of mine by the guy she's been seeing. This girl is an Asian American who's lived abroad for the past five years, I believe (and who is stunning, of course). The boy is like, Spanish-French or Italian-French or Italian-Portuguese or some other impossibly Latin, suave combination that makes him dangerous.

Romance in the field can be... tricky. We none of us are very normal out here and, as I've mentioned before I believe, Vegas rules apply. Geographical monogamy is the norm(i.e. my wife whom I adore and three children aren't on this continent and therefore it isn't cheating) and bounders and cads (of both genders)are everywhere. I don't know a single aid worker who doesn't have a horror story about falling hard for someone only to find out they are married/dating someone else in another country/sleeping with everything that moves/purchasing under-aged prostitutes in the market at night.

Add to that the social scene of places like Juba (and Kabul and Monrovia et al) which are... well, juvenile doesn't even being to cover it. This weekend I attended a party where men were dressed as women (including some VERY high level policy people in the UN) and a party where there was mud wrestling. I am BARELY on the edge of still being allowed to do things like that at 28, but I am usually one of the younger people at these things. Which means you've got 40-somethings with exceedingly powerful jobs doing tequila slammers and belly flopping into a mud pit next to a bonfire.

Which gets us back to I Love You. A Little. No matter how much you like someone, in an environment where there's huge amounts of drinking, huge ammounts of philandering, huge amounts of responsibility and huge amounts of stress, not to mention all normal social checks have been removed, you have to be cautious. To qualify every emmotion with "yes, I do love you, but in a Juba way" or "a Jijiga way" or "a Baidoa way" all of which translates to "I love you. A little."

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